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From the Stone Soup Blog

The following is a transcript of part of the second installment of Emma’s poetry podcast. Head over to our blog at Stonesoup.com/young-bloggers/ to listen to it or read it in full!

Poetry Soup (A Poetry Podcast) — Episode #2

Hello, and welcome to Poetry Soup! I’m your host, Emma Catherine Hoff. Each episode, I’ll discuss a different poem and poet. Today, I’ll be talking about two different poets—one real and one fake.

Can a poem be written by someone who doesn’t even exist? “The Keeper of Sheep” is written by Alberto Caeiro, which is a heteronym invented by the poet and writer Fernando Pessoa. A heteronym is different from a pseudonym because a pseudonym is just a name, while a heteronym is an entire personality. I’ll talk more about the heteronym Alberto Caeiro later. But first, a little bit about Fernando Pessoa.

Fernando Pessoa was born on June 13, 1888, in Lisbon, Portugal. When Pessoa was six years old, he made up his first heteronym, a man by the name of Chevalier de Pas. Pessoa created at least seventy-two heteronyms throughout his lifetime. Pessoa was a poet, writer, literary critic, translator, publisher, and philosopher. He was deeply influenced by English poets like William Shakespeare and Percy Bysshe Shelley. You can also see the influence of Walt Whitman in much of Pessoa’s work, including the poem we’ll be reading today. Fernando Pessoa died on Nov. 30, 1935, in Lisbon, Portugal, at the age of 47.

But now there’s another poet to talk about: Alberto Caeiro. In creating Caeiro, Pessoa had to come up with a whole new personality with an entire history. Caeiro has had only a grade-school education—he is a peasant who is in touch with his surroundings and is greatly influenced by them, yet not curious about their existence. According to Pessoa, Alberto Caeiro does not question the things around him—he has interesting ideas, but he simply takes in his surroundings without asking “why.” Speaking in the voice of another heteronym, Ricardo Reis, Pessoa said, “Caeiro, like Whitman, leaves me perplexed. We are thrown off our critical attitude by so extraordinary a phenomenon. We have never seen anything like it. Even after Whitman, Caeiro is strange and terrible, appallingly new.” The perspective of the poems changes based on the personality of the heteronym Fernando Pessoa might be writing under at the time. Octavio Paz even called Caeiro the “innocent poet.”

Head to our website to read or listen to the rest!

About the Stone Soup Blog

We publish original work—writing, art, book reviews, multimedia projects, and more—by young people on the Stone Soup Blog. You can read more posts by young bloggers, and find out more about submitting a blog post, here: https://stonesoup.com/stone-soup-blog/.